The LookOut Letters to the Editor
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A Lesson from Dr. Holbrook

November 13, 2002

Dear Editor,

Council Member Robert Holbrook survived some of the city's most infamous hit pieces, the Police & Firefighters Union mailers, which lied about Holbrook. The last-minute attack falsely claimed that Holbrook was weak on Public Safety, when for decades Holbrook's record shows that he has been an outspoken public safety advocate.

In other American cities, one would hear a strong rebuke from the City Manager, City Attorney and City Council for the misconduct of this municipal employee union, which blatantly and maliciously lied about Robert Holbrook's voting record in order to defeat him.

Unfortunately, in Santa Monica there is a moral double standard. A few months ago, a hapless petition circulator, working for the Historic District Initiative (which the SMRR council majority opposed), made a technical bungle while gathering a signature on a petition. He was fined and morally denounced by a SMRR council member. When a decent, hard working, non-SMRR council member is falsely and maliciously attacked by the Police and Firefighters Union, City Hall remains conspicuously silent.

The Police & Firefighters Union's lies did mislead many voters. Fortunately, Holbrook had a strong campaign and a secret weapon -- a "Good Guy" reputation. A large number of voters, who were better informed about Holbrook's record, did not believe the last minute lies.

Holbrook earned his Good Guy reputation through years of public service. Holbrook's good works were well known to a large number of the city's 84,000 people. Holbrook, whose father was a firefighter, met thousands of people during decades of distinguished public service in civic groups, on the school board, and on the City Council.

When Holbrook was falsely attacked, his Good Guy reputation was in place to help him win the election. Holbrook's triumph demonstrates an important lesson. Voters who personally know a candidate tend to ignore last minute, malicious mailings.

If Santa Monica voters could participate in smaller, neighborhood districts each with approximately 12,000 people, the voters could better know the candidates than they can today in an 84,000 person city-wide election. Increased personal contact between the voters and the candidates produces more positive, friendlier elections that makes people feel good about going to the polls.

In small election districts, last minute malicious mailers are rare because they tend to backfire. If you know someone, you are less likely to believe a last minute negative attack.

Holbrook's election proves that when the voters personally know a candidate's good record, he or she is more likely to survive last minute malicious hit pieces. Holbrook's victory also reminds us that virtue has it rewards.

Paul DeSantis

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